Environment Vs Development: BMC’s Coastal Road Has Mumbai Divided

“Coastal Road isn’t economically viable,” say experts as the fate of the ambitious project hangs in the balance.

Published27 Jul 2019, 08:48 AM IST
Explainers
7 min read
Snapshot

The Maharashtra government’s ambitious Mumbai coastal road project hit an unexpected roadblock on 16 July 2019 after the Bombay High Court struck down the environmental clearances granted to the project.

While many see this as a massive victory for environmentalists and conservationists, the fight is still far from over as the BMC has now moved the Supreme Court, challenging the high court order.

The mega project, that is set to cost about Rs 12,700 crore, has courted controversy ever since its inception.

While it will definitely cut down the commute time for Mumbaikars travelling between South Mumbai and the far-flung western suburbs of the city, environmentalists argue that the massive construction needed will be detrimental to the ecosystem in and around the city.

Environment Vs Development: BMC’s Coastal Road Has Mumbai Divided

  1. 1. What Is the Coastal Road Project? Why Is It Needed?

    Decongesting Mumbai’s arterial roads was the key idea behind the Coastal Road project. Covering a distance of 29.2 kilometre, the road is expected to be built in two phases – Marine Lines in South Mumbai to Worli Sea Link and Bandra Sea Link to Kandivali junction in North Mumbai.

    The eight-lane expressway is projected to be used by nearly 1,30,000 vehicles when complete and is expected to cut the travel time from South Mumbai to the Northern parts of the city from 120 minutes to about 40 minutes.
    A screenshot of the BMC video depicting the Mumbai Coastal Road once its finished.
    A screenshot of the BMC video depicting the Mumbai Coastal Road once its finished.
    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

    Apart from reducing travel time, the BMC, in a 2016 report, stated that, ‘health concerns alone would justify taking up this project in larger public interest.’

    The civic body added that the land reclaimed for the coastal road would also create more open spaces – something scarce in the ‘maximum’ city.

    “The coastal freeway system proposed by the committee provides a feasible solution to ameliorate traffic congestion and consequent health hazards. It generates much needed recreational spaces (90 hectares), now by the sea side through creation of beautiful sea side promenades and cycle tracks. All these sea side facilities would be within the easy reach of the common public as opposed to such spaces being private backyards of a few or common place abuse of the sea side spaces by ugly encroachments.”
    Excerpt from BMC’s Coastal Road Plan 2016 EIA Report
    Expand
  2. 2. Does the Cost of the Project Justify Its Purpose?

    Transport experts have their reservations about the Coastal Road project. Some feel that it will decongest a very small part of the city and is, thus, not economically viable.

    Construction work for the Coastal Road underway at the Worli sea face.
    Construction work for the Coastal Road underway at the Worli sea face.
    (Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)
    “The question is, how many people will this benefit? Let me put this into perspective. The Metro 3, Western Railway and Coastal Road are parallel to each other. Now, Western Railway carries 35 lakh people every day, the Metro carries 12-15 lakh people and the Coastal Road will carry about one lakh people. How does one lakh even compete with the other two figures? Why are we spending so much for so little?”
    Ashok Datar, Urban Transportation Expert

    “Also, the Metro is quite comfortable. It is more expensive than buses but is cheaper than paying toll,” he adds.

    Expand
  3. 3. Coastal Road vs Biodiversity: Why Are Environmentalists Opposing the Project?

    A study by Sagarshakti, the marine division of the environmentalist group Vanashakti, found that the Coastal Road project poses a direct threat to at least 36 intertidal marine species present along the Worli shoreline.

    The report also identifies that some of these species like molluscs, sea cucumbers, corals and sea fans are included in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

    The rocks along the coast are home to snails, octopus, molluscs and other marine species.
    The rocks along the coast are home to snails, octopus, molluscs and other marine species.
    (Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)
    “The ongoing reclamation includes dumping of non-oceanic red mud that could impact the biodiversity, potentially suffocating fragile species like sea slugs, crabs and octopuses which are known to live in crevices and burrows of intertidal rocks. The extent of damage beyond species destruction is unknown and requires scientific inquiry.” 
    Marine diversity report by Sagarshakti (Vanashakti) 

    The BMC, which was ordered to pay two percent of the total cost of the project to the Mangrove Foundation of Maharashtra, before the Coastal Road project began, has paid only Rs 25 crore so far.

    The civic body is expected to pay a total of Rs 254 crore to the autonomous society that assists the Maharashtra government in marine conservation.

    The BMC recently appointed the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) to study the effects of construction of the project on the sea water and marine diversity.
    At least 36 intertidal marine species will be directly affected by the project.
    At least 36 intertidal marine species will be directly affected by the project.
    (Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)

    The Indian Express reported that the civic body will spend Rs 7.88 crore on preparing the biodiversity conservation plan. Environmentalists, however, believe that the BMC’s move to order a study now is too little, too late.

    “This is something that they should have thought of before starting to work on the project. It is only after we showed them the biodiversity that the government wakes up and approaches the mangroves cell and the forest department, NIO and everyone. Is it our duty show them the biodiversity? What is the environment department doing? This was under their noses, but we had to dig it out.”
    Stalin Dayanand, Director, Vanashakti & Petitioner Against Coastal Road 
    Expand
  4. 4. Coastal Road vs Fishermen

    Fishermen living along the coast of Mumbai have vehemently opposed the project, that they say could destroy their only source of livelihood.

    The two main petitioners fighting a legal battle to halt the Coastal Road are fishermen’s groups from Worli-Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society Ltd and Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society.

    Days before Mumbai voted in the Lok Sabha polls, in May 2019, fishermen societies from Worli announced that they would boycott the polls to protest the Coastal Road project.

    Banners were also erected along Worli that urged people to not vote in the polls, The Indian Express reported.

    “Due to the proposed Mumbai Coastal Road Project, the western coast near Worli will be reclaimed by 200 metre to 500 metre by dumping of soil. This will not only be a road but also a parking area. A garden will be created through reclamation. The reclamation will wipe out fishermen’s livelihood. Also, during high tide, Worli village will be flooded and submerged. If urban development kills people and the environment, then it should be opposed. Our demands have not been met, so there is no question of going for voting,” members of the protesting fishermen’s group said.
    A fisherman casts his net to haul some catch.
    A fisherman casts his net to haul some catch.
    (Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)

    Responding to the concerns of the fishing community, the BMC has offered to provide monetary compensation to those who would end up losing their source of income.

    The civic body, however, is yet to come up with a concrete plan.

    “There are close to over 200 families who are completely dependent on the intertidal area because they are artisanal fishermen and are poor people who don’t have any boats. They are the poorest of poor fishermen who try to make a living out of it. Whenever there’s a project what is always quantified or taken in account is only those fishermen who have boats and go into the sea. These artisanal fishermen don’t figure into their guidelines at all.”
    Stalin Dayanand, director at Vanashakti and petitioner against Coastal Road 
    Expand
  5. 5. Where Does the Project Stand Legally?

    On 16 July, the Bombay High Court quashed the Coastal Regulation Zone clearances to the project, citing lack of proper scientific study. This is the second time the BMC is forced to stop all work at the project site.

    In April 2019, the Bombay High Court had prohibited the BMC from carrying out any further work on the project after multiple petitioners intervened. Following this setback, the civic body had appealed before the Supreme Court.

    In May, the Supreme Court permitted the BMC to continue working on the project but refused to allow it to conduct any new work. It also ordered the high court to take up final hearing of petitions in the case.

    In its order, the Bombay High Court directed the civic body to obtain environmental clearance under Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued by the Centre and also declared that permission must be obtained under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

    “It is obvious that a serious lacuna has occurred in the decision-making process. We hold that there is lack of proper scientific study and this has been overlooked by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), the EIA and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).”
    Bombay High Court order 

    The court also directed that environment impact assessment must be done for the Mumbai coastal road project in entirety and not in parts.

    The BMC has now, once again, challenged the high court’s order. Activists, too, now pin all their hopes on the apex court.

    Expand
  6. 6. Who Stands to Lose Over the Delay?

    The BMC had already spent Rs 500 crore on the Coastal Road project when the Bombay High court struck down environmental clearances, on 16 July 2019.

    The civic body and the contractors working on the project have already reclaimed land in multiple locations, including Worli sea face and Haji Ali among others.

    The complete halt, however, could result in increasing the cost of the project – that is already a whopping Rs 12,700 crore.

    Construction work at the reclaimed sites have been halted since the Bombay High Court order.
    Construction work at the reclaimed sites have been halted since the Bombay High Court order.
    (Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)
    Apart from the BMC, private companies like Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), too, suffer a massive setback as they may have to set aside working on orders related to the Mumbai Coastal Road

    L&T was awarded two packages of the Coastal Road worth almost Rs 7,500 crore in 2018, reported The Economic Times.

    HCC meanwhile, bagged contracts worth Rs 2,126 crore in a joint venture with Hyundai Development Corporation.

    (With inputs from The Indian Express, The Economic Times and PTI)

    We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

    The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.

    Expand

What Is the Coastal Road Project? Why Is It Needed?

Decongesting Mumbai’s arterial roads was the key idea behind the Coastal Road project. Covering a distance of 29.2 kilometre, the road is expected to be built in two phases – Marine Lines in South Mumbai to Worli Sea Link and Bandra Sea Link to Kandivali junction in North Mumbai.

The eight-lane expressway is projected to be used by nearly 1,30,000 vehicles when complete and is expected to cut the travel time from South Mumbai to the Northern parts of the city from 120 minutes to about 40 minutes.
A screenshot of the BMC video depicting the Mumbai Coastal Road once its finished.
A screenshot of the BMC video depicting the Mumbai Coastal Road once its finished.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Apart from reducing travel time, the BMC, in a 2016 report, stated that, ‘health concerns alone would justify taking up this project in larger public interest.’

The civic body added that the land reclaimed for the coastal road would also create more open spaces – something scarce in the ‘maximum’ city.

“The coastal freeway system proposed by the committee provides a feasible solution to ameliorate traffic congestion and consequent health hazards. It generates much needed recreational spaces (90 hectares), now by the sea side through creation of beautiful sea side promenades and cycle tracks. All these sea side facilities would be within the easy reach of the common public as opposed to such spaces being private backyards of a few or common place abuse of the sea side spaces by ugly encroachments.”
Excerpt from BMC’s Coastal Road Plan 2016 EIA Report

Does the Cost of the Project Justify Its Purpose?

Transport experts have their reservations about the Coastal Road project. Some feel that it will decongest a very small part of the city and is, thus, not economically viable.

Construction work for the Coastal Road underway at the Worli sea face.
Construction work for the Coastal Road underway at the Worli sea face.
(Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)
“The question is, how many people will this benefit? Let me put this into perspective. The Metro 3, Western Railway and Coastal Road are parallel to each other. Now, Western Railway carries 35 lakh people every day, the Metro carries 12-15 lakh people and the Coastal Road will carry about one lakh people. How does one lakh even compete with the other two figures? Why are we spending so much for so little?”
Ashok Datar, Urban Transportation Expert

“Also, the Metro is quite comfortable. It is more expensive than buses but is cheaper than paying toll,” he adds.

Coastal Road vs Biodiversity: Why Are Environmentalists Opposing the Project?

A study by Sagarshakti, the marine division of the environmentalist group Vanashakti, found that the Coastal Road project poses a direct threat to at least 36 intertidal marine species present along the Worli shoreline.

The report also identifies that some of these species like molluscs, sea cucumbers, corals and sea fans are included in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The rocks along the coast are home to snails, octopus, molluscs and other marine species.
The rocks along the coast are home to snails, octopus, molluscs and other marine species.
(Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)
“The ongoing reclamation includes dumping of non-oceanic red mud that could impact the biodiversity, potentially suffocating fragile species like sea slugs, crabs and octopuses which are known to live in crevices and burrows of intertidal rocks. The extent of damage beyond species destruction is unknown and requires scientific inquiry.” 
Marine diversity report by Sagarshakti (Vanashakti) 

The BMC, which was ordered to pay two percent of the total cost of the project to the Mangrove Foundation of Maharashtra, before the Coastal Road project began, has paid only Rs 25 crore so far.

The civic body is expected to pay a total of Rs 254 crore to the autonomous society that assists the Maharashtra government in marine conservation.

The BMC recently appointed the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) to study the effects of construction of the project on the sea water and marine diversity.
At least 36 intertidal marine species will be directly affected by the project.
At least 36 intertidal marine species will be directly affected by the project.
(Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)

The Indian Express reported that the civic body will spend Rs 7.88 crore on preparing the biodiversity conservation plan. Environmentalists, however, believe that the BMC’s move to order a study now is too little, too late.

“This is something that they should have thought of before starting to work on the project. It is only after we showed them the biodiversity that the government wakes up and approaches the mangroves cell and the forest department, NIO and everyone. Is it our duty show them the biodiversity? What is the environment department doing? This was under their noses, but we had to dig it out.”
Stalin Dayanand, Director, Vanashakti & Petitioner Against Coastal Road 

Coastal Road vs Fishermen

Fishermen living along the coast of Mumbai have vehemently opposed the project, that they say could destroy their only source of livelihood.

The two main petitioners fighting a legal battle to halt the Coastal Road are fishermen’s groups from Worli-Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society Ltd and Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society.

Days before Mumbai voted in the Lok Sabha polls, in May 2019, fishermen societies from Worli announced that they would boycott the polls to protest the Coastal Road project.

Banners were also erected along Worli that urged people to not vote in the polls, The Indian Express reported.

“Due to the proposed Mumbai Coastal Road Project, the western coast near Worli will be reclaimed by 200 metre to 500 metre by dumping of soil. This will not only be a road but also a parking area. A garden will be created through reclamation. The reclamation will wipe out fishermen’s livelihood. Also, during high tide, Worli village will be flooded and submerged. If urban development kills people and the environment, then it should be opposed. Our demands have not been met, so there is no question of going for voting,” members of the protesting fishermen’s group said.
A fisherman casts his net to haul some catch.
A fisherman casts his net to haul some catch.
(Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)

Responding to the concerns of the fishing community, the BMC has offered to provide monetary compensation to those who would end up losing their source of income.

The civic body, however, is yet to come up with a concrete plan.

“There are close to over 200 families who are completely dependent on the intertidal area because they are artisanal fishermen and are poor people who don’t have any boats. They are the poorest of poor fishermen who try to make a living out of it. Whenever there’s a project what is always quantified or taken in account is only those fishermen who have boats and go into the sea. These artisanal fishermen don’t figure into their guidelines at all.”
Stalin Dayanand, director at Vanashakti and petitioner against Coastal Road 

Where Does the Project Stand Legally?

On 16 July, the Bombay High Court quashed the Coastal Regulation Zone clearances to the project, citing lack of proper scientific study. This is the second time the BMC is forced to stop all work at the project site.

In April 2019, the Bombay High Court had prohibited the BMC from carrying out any further work on the project after multiple petitioners intervened. Following this setback, the civic body had appealed before the Supreme Court.

In May, the Supreme Court permitted the BMC to continue working on the project but refused to allow it to conduct any new work. It also ordered the high court to take up final hearing of petitions in the case.

In its order, the Bombay High Court directed the civic body to obtain environmental clearance under Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued by the Centre and also declared that permission must be obtained under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

“It is obvious that a serious lacuna has occurred in the decision-making process. We hold that there is lack of proper scientific study and this has been overlooked by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), the EIA and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).”
Bombay High Court order 

The court also directed that environment impact assessment must be done for the Mumbai coastal road project in entirety and not in parts.

The BMC has now, once again, challenged the high court’s order. Activists, too, now pin all their hopes on the apex court.

Who Stands to Lose Over the Delay?

The BMC had already spent Rs 500 crore on the Coastal Road project when the Bombay High court struck down environmental clearances, on 16 July 2019.

The civic body and the contractors working on the project have already reclaimed land in multiple locations, including Worli sea face and Haji Ali among others.

The complete halt, however, could result in increasing the cost of the project – that is already a whopping Rs 12,700 crore.

Construction work at the reclaimed sites have been halted since the Bombay High Court order.
Construction work at the reclaimed sites have been halted since the Bombay High Court order.
(Photo Courtesy: Vanashakti)
Apart from the BMC, private companies like Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), too, suffer a massive setback as they may have to set aside working on orders related to the Mumbai Coastal Road

L&T was awarded two packages of the Coastal Road worth almost Rs 7,500 crore in 2018, reported The Economic Times.

HCC meanwhile, bagged contracts worth Rs 2,126 crore in a joint venture with Hyundai Development Corporation.

(With inputs from The Indian Express, The Economic Times and PTI)

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.

Never Miss Out

Stay tuned with our weekly recap of what’s hot & cool by The Quint.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!